Home > The Man in the Black Suit(6)

The Man in the Black Suit(6)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

   She could have avoided the heavy traffic on the Champs and taken a more efficient route, but she didn’t. She enjoyed the view along the avenue and suffered the traffic because of it.

   The wind whipped her face and fluttered the curls that had escaped her sturdy helmet. With a glance or two of appreciation, she shot past the Grande Palais, the Petit Palais, and approached Place de La Concorde before heading south toward the river Seine.

   Acacia had to fight to keep her eyes off the river and on the traffic in front of her. The Seine was mesmerizing. She’d spent hours walking its banks and bridges, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone.

   Boats carrying tourists traveled up and down the river. But the Seine was high this summer, owing to two weeks of heavy rain. As she approached the Pont des Arts, one of her favorite bridges, she saw a tourist boat turning around. The bridge was too low for it to clear.

   She nodded to the Louvre on her left before she continued to Pont Notre Dame, crossing over to Île de la Cité and heading to the Left Bank.

   Before she left the island, Acacia took a detour alongside Notre-Dame cathedral, slowing her speed to an almost unacceptable level. The thirteenth-century structure was smaller than one might expect, especially if one had seen it in films. But it was very impressive, with its twin towers and intricately carved portals on the western façade.

   Acacia wasn’t a Christian, but she made a note to herself to attend Mass at the Cathedral the next time she was able. The aesthetic experience fed her soul, and she couldn’t admire the rose windows from her motorcycle.

   She turned away from Notre-Dame and headed north so she could drive by the historic house of Héloïse and Abélard. Acacia disliked their story. In her estimation, Abélard was manipulative and controlling, and Héloïse had been foolish and co-dependent. But Acacia honored their love, even if she couldn’t understand it. So with a hand on her heart, she paid her respects to the lovers who had been dead since the twelfth century.

   She circled back to Petit Pont and crossed to the Latin Quarter, where she lived. She smiled at some of the buildings of the Sorbonne, her former university, before turning onto Rue Soufflot and parking her motorcycle.

   Acacia lived in a small studio on the third floor of an old but beautiful building on the corner of Rue Saint-Jacques and Rue Soufflot. A friend’s parents owned the studio and because of her friendship with their daughter, they blessed her with affordable rent. Acacia had lived in the flat since she was a student.

   There wasn’t an elevator in the building, but few if any of the older buildings had them. Acacia trudged up the staircase, carrying her backpack.

   “Hey.” Kate, Acacia’s American neighbor, greeted her in English as she approached.

   “Hi.” Acacia paused as Kate locked the door of the flat she shared with her roommate, Violaine.

   “What’s happening?” Kate pushed her riot of red hair back from her face. “I haven’t seen you in a while.”

   “I’ve been working. How are you?”

   “Tired. Graduate school is kicking my ass.” Kate pulled her knapsack over her shoulder. “Bernard is having a party Saturday night. You should come.”

   “I’d like that.” Acacia smile was carefully neutral.

   “You mean it, right? The last time you said you were coming, you never showed.” Kate made a face.

   “I was called in to work. I’ll try to make it this time.”

   “Great. Bernard throws the best parties, and he’ll be happy you’re coming.” Kate squeezed Acacia’s arm as she passed. “Give Claude a hug from me.”

   Acacia chuckled and shook her head. Kate was lively and generous with her friends, of which she had many. She’d even tried to set Acacia up with Bernard, who was a journalist with Le Monde.

   Bernard threw the best parties, it was true. He liked food and fine wine and always invited an interesting and diverse array of guests. But Acacia felt no spark of attraction with him, and getting involved with a journalist was far from safe.

   She entered her flat. Claude greeted her with a meow and rubbed himself against her legs until she lifted him for a proper hug. He had large, yellow eyes and soft, black fur. She’d found him on the doorstep one wet and rainy night. With the exception of Acacia and Kate, he hated everyone.

   “Olá, Fofo.” She murmured endearments to him in Portuguese before she fed him and opened her mail.

   After a modest dinner and a generous glass of white wine, she pored over a printed copy of Monsieur Breckman’s guest profile, which she’d smuggled home in her backpack. It was possible he was embarrassed about asking Acacia to return the gifts for his girlfriend and that was why he’d preferred to deal with Marcel. But something about the hypothesis didn’t sit right with her.

   “Marcel was supposed to set up a meeting.” Acacia addressed Claude, who was curled up in her lap as she sat at the kitchen table. “But there was nothing attached to Breckman’s reservation. It isn’t like Marcel to forget something.”

   Claude blinked his yellow eyes, as if in acknowledgment.

   “Unless Marcel tried to set up a meeting and failed,” Acacia thought aloud. “But wouldn’t he have notified Breckman before he arrived?”

   Marcel was the senior concierge, and he took great pride in his work. He wouldn’t have forgotten a task for an important guest. And there was the matter of his assault. Acacia was inclined to believe the Paris police over Monsieur Breckman, but his assessment rang true. Marcel had been beaten badly, which didn’t seem to align with a random mugging.

   She wondered if Monsieur Breckman spent much time watching American police dramas. He seemed to have a curious understanding of the criminal mind.

   According to the smuggled file, Pierre Breckman was a businessman from Monaco. The nature of his business was not disclosed. He’d been accorded a four and a half star rating by the hotel, which Acacia found surprising. Five stars were reserved for royalty and heads of state. Four stars were usually given to celebrities of one sort or another. Pierre Breckman was neither, but clearly—as the management emphasized—he was a highly valued guest.

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